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How to reference the HIA Guide to Materials and Workmanship

The HIA Guide to Materials and Workmanship includes a set of accepted industry standards. In the case of a dispute over defective work or misunderstanding over qualities of workmanship and tolerances it can be used as a point of reference for both the builder and the owner.

What is the HIA Guide?

When a builder and home owner enter into a building contract, they generally agree that work will be undertaken in accordance with a certain standard of workmanship and quality of finish. 

While sometimes these standards are specified in the contract or are regulated by the government, often they are not. HIA has produced a workmanship guide intended to help in these ‘grey areas’.

The HIA Guide has been prepared to assist in disputes with clients. It references Building Code of Australia requirements, applicable Australian Standards and industry guides in establishing benchmarks for assessing whether potential defects exist. It is important that the guide is not used as a guide to all construction matters – rather, it should be used as a reference for determining whether a defect exists or not. The plans and specifications are the appropriate documents to guide construction. 

How can I obtain the guide?

HIA members can download the guide for free or you can buy a digital copy from HIA Shop.

How do I incorporate the guide into my building contract? 

1. By using HIA’s General Specification 

The HIA-branded specifications have been updated in NSW, ACT and Victoria to automatically reference and incorporate the HIA Guide to Materials and Workmanship. 

If you wish to refer to the guide but already have an existing HIA specification that does not reference the guide, HIA Stationery has a free insert you can use to call up the guide in your specifications. A copy of this insert is also downloadable from the HIA website. 

2. By using your own specification

If you do not use HIA Specifications, or the owner provides you with their own plans and specifications, you can follow these steps if you want to use the HIA Guide:

  1. List the guide as a contract document in the schedule to the contract 
  2. Reference the guide in your own specifications using the sample wording below: 

Sample wording: 

These specifications incorporate the HIA Guide on Materials and Workmanship. The client agrees that he/she has had access and review a copy of the guide. 

The parties agree to use HIA Guide as a point of reference for information on industry accepted workmanship standards and tolerances in deciding whether an alleged defect exists and/or whether the materials used and/or workmanship are in accordance with the plans and specifications. 

The HIA Guide will be used in priority to any other guide on standards and tolerances. 

Whether or not you use the HIA specifications, when you lodge your documents with your local council to apply for a building permit, HIA recommends that you attach a hard copy print out of the HIA Guide to Materials and Workmanship with your application plans and specifications. 

Other state guidance materials

The Victorian Building Authority (previously the Victorian Building Commission) has published its own workmanship guide, most recently a 2015 Guide to Standards and Tolerances. The Victorian Guide is currently being promoted in NSW and Tasmania as a reference tool and is referred to in ACT building regulations. A number of other states have produced their own guides to standards and tolerances, though most are based on the Victorian guide.

By incorporating the HIA Guide into your council-approved specifications, the HIA Guide will take precedence over other guides. However, building inspectors may still choose or be required to use other guides when conducting inspections and preparing reports in accordance with established practice. 

To find out more, contact HIA's Building Services team.

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